Slithzerikai, or sliths, are a strong and intelligent race of lizard-people. They originated in the caves below Exile. They first encountered humans during the First Expedition, and the results were violent and bloody. Since then, there have been two major slith wars, creatively referred to as the First Slith War and the Second Slith War. Most sliths seen outside of the Bahssikava, excluding those from Gnass, are violent and hostile to humans, although more and more friendly sliths have begun to surface, prompting the Empire to take the largely ceremonial and political step of adding them to their friendly species list.
Slithzerikai are reptiles with humanoid characteristics. They have five clawed fingers on each hand and five clawed toes on each foot. They have scaly skin and their eyes are usually colored red, although some individuals may have blue eyes. All sliths have a tail for balance.
Growing to a height of far over two meters (surpassing even three meters in some cases), the slithzerikai are some of the larger humanoid races in Ermarian. They are still dwarfed by creatures like ogres and giants.
The sliths have a great advantage over the other humanoid races in being comparably large sized and strong. Their tough skin makes them clumsy and slow, but it also provides them with natural armor against enemies and monsters alike. Only a very strong (or very foolish) human would dare to take on a slith in hand-to-hand combat alone.
The sliths' traditional weapon of choice is a gigantic two-tined spear that's usually about two meters long. The spear requires enormous strength to wield, but gives great reach and stopping power to the wielder's disposal. Needless to say, such spears are most efficient in slith hands, allowing their physical traits to really come into their own.
As reptiles, the sliths are cold-blooded creatures and therefore require much warmth to live. In cold environments, they slow down severely. They become more susceptible to illness when cold, and may even go into a torpor.
In general the slithzerikai are extremely intelligent, and they have a great talent for magic, especially clerical magic. However, intelligence can vary greatly from slith to slith, and a large minority of sliths are raised as utter simpletons.
Sliths have a life expectancy that is notably beyond human standards, along the estimate of 150 years or more. It has been suggested that, like dragons, the slithzerikai never cease to grow; however, their growth rate slows down once they reach about two meters, and only a few live long enough to grow to enormous sizes. Even so, such gigantic sliths are known to have existed.
Habitat and society
Slithzerikai originate in caverns far lower than those of the Exile. As a reptilian race, they are highly dependent on magma vents, hot springs and other sources of heat to keep themselves active.
Since the slithzerikai are natives of the caverns, building houses to keep themselves safe from the elements has been either merely an extravagance; or they have forgotten the craft since their banishment from their homeland. Because of the sliths' secretiveness about their past, the scholars have had hard time discerning which of the conjectures holds true. It has been recorded, however, that on multiple occasions the slithzerikai have been shown struggling to create huts and homes, but also have been mastering the craft eventually.
It is noteworthy that even the barbaric sliths, who have no skills to build installations, feature a number of highly skilled sculptors in their midst. Sculpting statues of mighty warriors, war-leaders and great shamans is the highest sign of respect the slithzerikai can show to an ancestor, recently deceased or even a person who is still alive.
Known slith societies
- Gnass sliths. This brood of slithzerikai boasts the earliest friendly relations with the Kingdom of Avernum. It is the most civilized hierarchy of sliths within the Exile, and is home to a carefully tended shrine on an island a short distance from the mainland - Gnass' jewel and pride. (The gnassians are in friendly relations with the Kingdom of Avernum.)
- Central Island sliths. The society of Central Island sliths comprised purely of darklings. Scholars have been unable to determine if the darklings had enslaved peaceful sliths (such as Gnass sliths) under their rule. They were led by Sss-Thsss, who was prone to demon-worship. The brood had more than a dozen villages spread throughout the archipelago surrounding the central island, but were ultimately destroyed during the First Slith War. (The islanders were in hostile relations with Kingdom of Avernum.)
- Waterfall Warrens' sliths. During the First Slith War, a pack of peaceful sliths resided on the northern end of the Warrens. (The river sliths were presumed to be in hostile relations with the Central Island sliths. They have been known to have had dealings with Hawthorne's Assassins.)
- Waterfall Warrens' sliths. During the Empire-Avernum War, a tiny pack of sliths was stranded on a coastline to the northwest of the Warrens. It is unknown if they were the same group as during the First Slith War, a splinter of the aforementioned group, or of different affiliation entirely. (The river sliths maintained predatory relations to nearby cave fish. They have been known to have had dealings with Empire War Heroes.)
- Draco River sliths. During the Empire-Avernum War, a sizeable amount of barbaric slithzerikai - presumed to have been previously affiliated with the Central Island sliths - commandeered a fort deep within Draco lands. They were reported to worship Sss-Thsss as their god, by sculpting statues of him and leaving offerings near the statues. By the order of the mayor of Formello, a band of adventurers infiltrated the fort, freed a friendly slithzerikai prisoner and expunged the opposition. (The draconian sliths were in vengeful relations with Kingdom of Avernum, and other compliant parties.)
- Dranlon Front sliths. A small remnant of Central Island sliths, this brood was helped by Empire War Heroes to defend their village against an Empire raid. After the fight the now-peaceful sliths packed their belongings and headed east. Their fate remains unknown.
Despite being a lizard-folk, the slithzerikai have time and time again shown that they have no qualms with eating giant lizards. This goes to show that the sliths are practical people, since these animals are the most commonplace in the caverns. Sliths also bring variety to their diet by catching cave fish and raising crops of mushrooms.
All slithzerikai, darklings and civilized alike, tend to wear waistcloths and clothes that cover their upper bodies. Cloaks and tabards are commonplace. Some sources state that the slithzerikai, wise as they are, have not discovered the joy to be found in a truly well-tailored pair of pants. However, sliths who have brushed with humanity or have banded with human adventurers have been known to adopt the custom of wearing such garments.
In warfare, slithzerikai favor layered armor, bracers and cloaks.
Sliths, like most sentient species, have developed their own language, fully independent from Imperial Standard, called Slithzerikaiis. Another language, known as Classical Slith or Homeland Slith, is spoken by the Sliths of Bahssikava, and is independent of Slithzerikaiis. The sliths, both civilized and darklings, regard wordplay and speechcraft an important part of their lives. This can be seen even in the demon-worshipping slithzerikai, as the warriors memorize long and intricate war-chants to glorify past deeds and great leaders.
See list of slithzerikai names for further details.
Not much is known of the mysterious race of the slithzerikai; almost as little as of the secretive, vengeful Vahnatai, for they come from far below the lands of Exile, and these caverns are no more their home than they are ours. Most slithzerikai who lived in Exile originally were evil demon-worshippers, hostile to humans and all other races. They were themselves banished from their true homeland, and how it came to this is a long story only the rough details of which have been related to humans.
The Rebellion of Sss-Thsss the First
Legends tell of a holy empire, where the slithzerikai lived in an advanced civilization of peace, knowledge and spirituality. Their homes were not built, but hewn as caverns into the solid bedrock, and their cities reached deep beneath the cave floor. The slithzerikai worshipped many different deities in ancient rituals of meditation and tranquility, and they carved statues in their likeness and honor.
Then, a slith named Sss-Thsss became apostate, and began to serve demons and other darker powers, that commanded him to stir up strife among his race. Through promises of power and wealth, he was able to persuade many others to follow him, and a small civil war ensued.
Sss-Thsss was defeated, and he and his followers were exiled from the slith homeland. They were sent up to the caverns that we now call Exile, and the tunnel they passed through was barred with a steel gate that could not be penetrated by any force.
The slithzerikai in Exile
Some of the exiled slithzerikai continued to follow Sss-Thsss the First and his sons after him, and they fought the exiled humans many years later. Their leader Sss-Thsss the Second, (grand)son of Sss-Thsss, was killed by the humans, and their power has greatly diminished since, although they still threaten humans every once in a while.
The other slithzerikai repented, and sought to regain their right to live in the homeland by whatever means possible.
These slithzerikai founded several settlements in Exile, most famously the city of Gnass and Lost Bahssikava. They were fought by the other slithzerikai, who they called darklings for their worship of the darker powers. The reformed slithzerikai are at peace with humans, and have many times aided them against the darklings.